Tuesday, August 04, 2020

He's Just A Rat

HE'S JUST A RAT
by
Max Elliot Anderson

In a quaint, stone cottage, on a narrow dirt road, lived a little old lady all alone. Most people in the area had no idea that a house even sat in this overgrown pecan grove. And few had ever seen Mrs. Albert C. Abernathy who lived inside. Those who did know her – the mailman for example – called her Ida. 

Each day on his route, he climbed over thick vines just to get to her mailbox. And almost every day, he brought her nothing but bills, bills, bills. He knew the little woman seldom received a letter, a greeting card, or anything special in the mail.

For Ida, every day started and ended the same. She’d awaken at six, put on a tea kettle, take out a loaf of dry bread, and sit down to breakfast…alone. Most days were uneventful, and ended when she turned out the lights, locked the doors, and went to bed. Locking the doors seemed silly because who knew she was in there in the first place?

Then one day something happened that would change Ida’s long lonely life forever. It began with a letter the mailman delivered that morning, after climbing over the vines just like he always had. After he’d gone, Ida shuffled out to the box, expecting to find another handful of bills she couldn’t pay. Oh, the bills were there, but something else was, too. She walked back to the cottage, closed the door, and sat at her kitchen table. 

Ida took a deep breath as she looked around the room. The ceiling above showed several stains from rain that seeped easily through shingles that should have been replaced years ago…if Ida only had the money to do that, but she didn’t. Her cupboards were nearly empty. Her eyes drifted over to the glass in one of her kitchen windows with a big crack. As she looked at the floor, large pieces of tile had crumbled long ago.

She stared again at the stack of envelopes from the day’s mail and noticed one, about in the middle of the pile, that looked different. Her crooked, wrinkled fingers shook as they reached out and slipped it from between all the others. Ida took out her wire rimmed glasses, the lenses covered with her own fingerprint smudges, and settled them onto her nose. 

“First Bank and Trust,” she said right out loud. “This can’t be good news.” A sharp letter opener rested against an even larger pile of unopened mail. Ida took the opener, slipped it under the flap, and slid it from one end of the envelope to the other. When she pulled the letter from inside, and opened, it, she nearly fainted after reading:

“We regret to inform you that, after your failure to contact us, the bank has no choice but to foreclose on your house. This will take place in two weeks…”

Ida dropped the letter to the floor, took a deep breath, put her hands to her face, slowly shook her head, and sighed, “Whatever shall I do?” She struggled to her feet, walked to the back door, and looked out. The yard behind her house had become even more overgrown than the front with brush, bushes, and vines. Ida hadn’t been in that part of the yard for so many years, she hardly remembered what was out there.

As she turned toward the kitchen again, her dimming eyes saw something move between the wall and a refrigerator that no longer worked.

“It’s a rat!” she screamed. Quickly she began searching for her raggedy straw broom. When she found it on the porch, she grabbed it and returned to where the rat had become hopelessly wedged between the refrigerator and the wall. 

“Try to come into my house, will you?” Ida demanded. With the broom in one hand, and a small bucket in the other, she moved with caution toward the helpless rodent. She placed the bucket behind the rat, and slipped her broom just beyond its head. With one, trembling move, Ida swooshed that rat into her bucket and hurried, as fast as a little old woman can hurry, out the door and into the back yard. 

She reached for a rusted shovel, leaning against an old, oak tree. Its long, wooden handle felt rough in her hand from years of wind, rain, and weather. Ida peered into the bucket. The rat didn’t seem to be moving. Is he alive or dead? She wondered. With one foot, she tipped the bucket on its side, then pushed it away. The rat tumbled out onto the dirt and weeds. Now Ida held the shovel in both hands, trembled as she raised it above her head and prepared to make sure that rat never bothered her again.

Just as Ida was about to slam the shovel down, with as much force as an old woman could, the helpless rat did something. He opened one eye. Ida noticed that, and eased her grip on the shovel for a moment. Then he opened his other eye and trued his head up slightly. Now that rat was looking directly into Ida’s eyes.

If the rat could speak, Ida was sure the look on his little rat face meant, “Please don’t. I’m just a rat.” But, of course, rats can’t talk. Still, that look made her stop. She lowered the shovel, and sat down on a fallen tree to think. When she did that, the rat closed his eyes and put his head down again.

What shall I do? Ida wondered. It wouldn’t be right to kill it. I mean, what did the rat ever do to me? Then she got an idea. She went back into the house, poured a small sip of her tea into a dusty glass, picked up a crust of bread, and hurried back outside. “He’s probably already gone,” she said. But when she reached the log, that little rat was still there, still struggling to breathe.

It was difficult for her, but Ida knelt beside the rat, poured tea around his mouth, and waited. An instant later, the rat put out his tongue as if he were asking for more. So she gave it to him. Next she broke up the bread crust and scattered small pieces near the rat’s mouth. After that, she went into her house and shut the door. During the day, Ida thought about the rat, but she didn’t go back out to check on him. If he’s dead in the morning, then that’s that, she thought.

Ida wondered about him as she turned out the light, pulled the covers up to her neck and went to sleep that night. But those thoughts were crowded out by the letter she had received from the bank. What shall I do? she thought as she drifted off to sleep.

The sun seemed extra bright when Ida awakened in the morning. Before putting on a kettle for her tea, she wanted to know if her rat was dead or alive. I say dead, she thought as she pushed open the back door, walked down stone steps, and crept over to the fallen tree. But when she looked closer, the bread pieces were gone. Not only that, the rat was gone, too.

“Well! I’ll probably find him in the house again,” she said with a huff.

For the next few days, Ida sat in her house, wondering what to do when the bank came to take over the property. She’d nearly forgotten about her rat until one morning when she walked to the back door and looked out.

“What’s that?” she asked right out loud. She opened the door and stepped outside. There, on the step, sat a shiny gold coin. Ida leaned down, picked it up, and held it in her hand. First she looked around the back yard, then down to the coin. “Where did you come from?” she asked with a giggle. Back inside, she placed the coin inside a carved, glass box. The next morning, the same thing happened. Now Ida had two gold coins. But on the third day, she found a key on the step where the coins had been. She held it between her thumb and finger and wondered how it got there and what it might open. The key was placed in the glass box along with her two coins.

A week went by, but there were no more gifts on her back step. Then early one morning, while she was still in bed, Ida thought she heard scratching sounds at her back door. It made her tremble all over. Still, she slipped out of her covers to see what it was. When she looked out the door, all Ida saw was a single pebble on the top step. Looking closer, she noticed another on the second step, then another and another.

Ida stepped into her slippers, put on her robe, and hurried outside. What she found were several pebbles that seemed to be arranged in a line for her to follow. So she did. Ida had to crawl under thick brush and over other fallen trees until she came to a stone fence. I didn’t even remember we had a fence, she thought. The line of pebbles turned to the right and led Ida to a corner where two walls met. There, the line ended. She reached out and pushed an opening into the bushes. What she saw next nearly knocked her backward. 

“It’s a door,” she said.

Sure enough, an old wooden door, built into the wall, sat hidden behind other thick tangled vines that grew along the stone wall. The old woman noticed that the door sat slightly open. Just then, a small head popped out. 

Seeing that almost cause Ida to trip over a dead branch on the ground. “My rat!” she said. 

The rat smiled back and then pushed the door open wide. When Ida bent over and looked inside, she saw that her rat was standing next to a large, wooden lockbox. “The key,” she said. The rat nodded. She reached out and tried to move the box, but it was far too heavy. Then the rat went around to one side, and came up with another gold coin. Ida noticed that he had scratched a hole into the soft, rotted wood of the old box and made an opening.

Over the next two days, Ida made several trips between her cottage and the stone fence. The first was to get the key. When she returned to the lockbox, she was delighted to see that her key fit the lock perfectly. She turned the key, heard a loud click, and then with both hands, lifted the top. Inside she found a pile of gleaming, gold and silver coins. Each time she came to the fence, she took as many coins as she could carry back in her apron to her cottage. Finally there were no more of them in the wooden box.

The next day, Ida heard a knock at her front door. Who could that be? She wondered. No one ever comes to my door anymore. But when she turned the knob, and opened her door, she saw the sheriff and a man wearing a dark suit. Both men had scratches on their hands and faces from the thorns and vines. 

“It’s time to leave your cottage,” the sheriff told her. The banker kept a stern look on his face.

Ida held up her hand. “Just a moment,” she said, turned, and left the men standing outside. In an instant she returned with a handful of coins, held them out and said, “Will these help?”

The banker took one of the coins, held it close, and studied the markings. “How many of these do you have?”

Ida shook her head. “I stopped counting after one hundred.” Then she smiled, covered her mouth, and giggled. 

The men left with instructions that she should come into town and settle her debts. Ida did that after meeting with a lawyer. While she was in his office, she also had him draw up some special papers.

A few days later, several men came to Ida’s cottage. They spent the next week clearing out all the thorns, brush, vines, and fallen trees from her front and back yards. Other men arrived to fix the roof, replace the floors and windows, and make all the much needed repairs on Ida’s home. Finally, they built a small building in the back yard, near the door in the stone fence. It looked just like Ida’s cottage, only smaller. The men took the lock from the wooden lockbox and fitted it into the front door of the smaller cottage. 

When everyone had gone, Ida went outside to see the work that had been done. As she strolled across the back yard, she saw something. Her rat stood near the small cottage, but he wasn’t alone. His family waited with him until Ida came to them. She wasn’t sure they’d understand, but she told them anyway. 

“This cottage now belongs to you. I’ve made sure that, as long as your family lives, you will have your own cottage to live in.” A small tear ran down her wrinkled cheek. She took a key from her apron pocket, leaned down, placed it in the lock, and opened the door. 

The rat family looked up at her but didn’t seem to understand. Then Ida gave the key to her rat and pointed toward the door as she nodded. One-by-one, he and his family entered the small cottage.

“You saved my home and you saved my life,” Ida said.  “I can never thank you enough.”

Ida and the small family of rats lived happily as neighbors for several years. And long after Ida was gone, her rat and his family had a home of their own for the rest of their lives.


Books by Max Elliot Anderson can be found on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=max+elliot+anderson&ref=nb_sb_noss_1 

Review: Pop-Up Volcano!

I went through this amazing book with a five and eight year-old and both were totally fasciated. The pop-up pages are nothing short of spectacular. This will make an excellent resource for anyone studying volcanoes in school, writing a report, or participating in a science project concerning volcanoes. Both of my young readers kept flipping back to the pop-up pages again and again. 

A real favorite turned out to be the Volcanoes Under the Sea page. The kids couldn’t believe something like that could happen underwater. 


From the publisher:

Watch out! Explosive content! Science, history, and culture are brought to life through vibrant illustrations and riveting pop-ups in Pop-Up Volcano! that take you right to the edge of the crater.

Have you ever wondered how volcanoes are formed? Did you know that there are different types of eruptions? Pop-Up Volcano! tells you everything you’ve always wanted to know about volcanoes with fact-packed text―and pop-ups! Discover the science behind volcanic eruptions; what happens when magma meets water; the kinds of creatures that make their homes next to these mountains of fire; and what the Hawaiian goddess Pele has to do with all of this.

This fascinating book features detailed illustrations and stunning paper engineering for amateur volcanologists and nature lovers. Readers will delve deep beneath the surface of our planet, witnessing some of the most devastating moments in recorded history, including a mysterious volcanic eruption that occurred during the Middle Ages and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius outside Pompeii almost two thousand years ago.

Illustrated in color throughout.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Where Do You Get Ideas For Your Middle Grade Adventures And Mysteries?

A reoccurring question I hear often concerns a variation of, “Where do you get the ideas for your mystery and adventure books for kids?” This is an area where I feel particularly blessed because my life has included more than its share of adventure.


Much of it came from how I grew up, in a family of seven children. We lived in an idyllic place called Wolf Lake, Michigan. Our house was located on the grounds of the original Youth Haven where we had no end of woods to explore, lakes to swim in, and several colorful characters who lived nearby. 

It was later, through my film production experiences, that more serious adventures occurred. Like going to Vietnam to shoot a film just after getting out of the army. Or the project in Belfast, Northern Ireland, while the bombings were still frequent.

This post is about another one of those projects. In 2005, the story originally appeared in Guideposts and was called, “An Unexpected Song.” At the time, I had no idea that my father had put together a book of photographs from our ordeal. On a recent trip, to visit my mother, I found it. Some of the pictures I remember my dad shooting but not all of them. I had even shot a few of them, but completely forgot about it after all these years. 

Here, in pictures, is a true adventure story.





“Living Legends” is the title of a film we were shooting. It documented what happens in a Native American family when the father becomes a Christian and leads his family. 









Our final family interview was shot on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. We finished early, allowing us to begin our trip back home sooner than expected. One of the local people gave us directions including a shortcut, right through the reservation, which would cut fifteen to twenty miles off the trip. 





We set out on the course we thought would take us to the main highway, but things went very, very wrong.








Oh, the scenery was beautiful, so long as we were sitting in a moving car, on a good road. But things deteriorated quickly after our tires left the pavement and we continued on a gravel surface.








With my military training, I should have known better and turned back the way we had come. We didn’t do that and soon I was stopping the car in order to jump out to remove jagged rocks from our path so our car didn’t bottom out and cause damage.






We reached a place called Seven Mile Wash. It looked like I could just drive across the dry sand, and continue where the road started up again on the other side. Immediately our tires became mired in what I can only describe as a powdery dust that resembled talcum powder. It took hours to jack the car up, dig out the tires, place logs under them, and inch the car forward, only to repeat the process over and over again.

Eventually, as I drove over a rise, with the sun in my eyes, the car started down the next hill and we hit a patch of those jagged rocks, tearing a hole in the transmission pan. As the fluid gushed out, gears began to slip until the car couldn’t travel any further. Our car was disabled and we were hopelessly lost.


As my dad stood next to it, I wrote down the numbers on a marker so we could try and explain to someone where our car was, after we hiked out of that wilderness. Well, that didn’t go as planned either. After several hours of hiking, we found that we’d gone in a full circle, in the dark, and wound up right back at our car. At about 2 AM, we were at 5000 feet of elevation, it was freezing out, so we spent the night sleeping in the car.


At daylight, we decided to try hiking out again. It wasn’t long until we discovered what a hostile environment we were stranded in. We walked for most of that day, lost touch with each other a couple of times, and my father fell and split his head open. Both of us became pretty discouraged. We were hungry, thirsty, and very lost. That’s when I hiked to the top of a rugged hill, to try and find out where we should go. As I sat on the ground, beneath a small tree, a sparrow landed on a branch just above my head. He began singing his lungs out as if to remind me that if God’s eye is on the sparrow surely he knows where I am and what I need. In the distance I could see the reflection of a car on a straight road. It was miles away, but there was no mistake that help was in that direction. So on and on we trudged through gullies, across ice-covered streams, through brush and rocks.


It was almost cruel when we reached the area of the road because, from where we stood, it was a climb nearly straight up and our strength was gone. Somehow, with super-human strength, we made it to the top.


I took a roll of camera tape out of my jacket pocket and quickly made a sign that said, “Help!” The first car that saw it stopped and took us to the nearest town where we arranged to retrieve the car in the morning, and then slept for what felt like days.




Because I had written down the marker number, our tow truck driver knew exactly where our car was located. We piled in with him and drove off.






Our car was hooked up and taken into town where repairs were made. Finally we were on our way home after one of the greatest survival adventures of my life.




But before we left the area, we decided to drivew back to the place where we were rescued and take one last look.
Humm. Maybe I’ll have to write a book about that some day.












Find my books on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=max+elliot+anderson&ref=nb_sb_noss_1 

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

(3) Buddy's Big Surprise - A FREE Short Story for Kids Who Are Stuck at Home

Buddy's Big Surprise

In the early spring, while the evenings were still cool, a young squirrel stuck his head out of the nest, high up in a mighty oak. His name was Buddy. Up until today, Buddy had stayed nestled inside where it was warm and dark. Rain couldn’t touch him in there, and he was safe from the wind. Still Buddy knew it would soon be time to leave the nest.
“But I don’t wanna leave the nest,” he told his mother early one morning. “Why do I have to go?” 
“Because,” she answered him in her soft voice. “It’s the way of a squirrel to go into the world and find something to eat.”
“Won’t you bring me food?” he asked.
His mother only shook her head. “One day you’ll want your own nest. And you have a great purpose in the forest. You’ll see.”
Buddy didn’t like the sound of that. He didn’t like the sound at all. It wasn’t long before he climbed to the bottom of his tree, along with his mother, brother, and sister. Their mother showed them how to find food down on the ground. 
“This is very important,” she began. “You’ll be looking for nuts, acorns, fruit, and seeds.”
Buddy made a face. “Seeds? Yuck!”
“They aren’t bad, you’ll see. Now follow me.” She took them into a nearby farmer’s field where the young squirrels found more corn on the ground than they could possibly eat. Their mother showed them how to gather kernels of corn, acorns, and nuts, and bury them in the ground for later. Buddy learned how food could be waiting for him just under the next leaf.
Mother squirrel sat with her children near several tall ferns. “This is the most important lesson of all,” she began. “If you’re ever in danger, a squirrel simply turns, runs to the nearest tree, and climbs as fast as he can. You’ll be safe up there.”
Buddy shook his head. “Not me he said,” as his little chest puffed out. He clenched his two front paws and punched into the wind. “I can take care of myself.”
With a stern look, his mother said, “You must do as I say.”
The young squirrels went back to searching for food until, late in the afternoon, Buddy looked around. “Hey,” he said to the others, “Where’s Mom?” They only shook their heads. He looked up where an Eagle soared in the sky. Wish I could fly like that, he’d thought. Hope he didn’t catch my mom. Right then Buddy decided to try flying. He grabbed two dead leaves off the ground and climbed up the nearest tree. About four branches up, he stopped climbing and scurried out onto the limb.
“I’m gonna fly,” Buddy called out to the other squirrels. They looked up and laughed. 
“Squirrels can’t fly,” one of them said.
Buddy winked. “What about flying squirrels?”
“You’re not a flying squirrel,” another answered with a giggle.
“Oh yeah? Watch me.” With that, Buddy began flapping the leaf in each paw. When he’d gotten them going as fast as he could, he stepped off the branch. But no matter how hard he tried, there was no way Buddy was going to fly. He fell to the ground like a ripe walnut.
“Look!” a squirrel on the ground said with a laugh. “Another nut falls from a tree.”
Buddy got up off the ground, brushed his fur, and grumbled, “Those dumb leaves probably weren’t big enough.” Then he walked away while the other squirrels kept laughing.
When he reached the stream, Buddy looked down just as two big fish swam by. 
Wish I could swim under water, he thought. He moved right up to the edge of the bank so he could get a closer look. That’s when something terrible happened. The dirt under his feet broke away, dumping Buddy into the cold water. His head went under and he found out very quickly that squirrels weren’t meant to breathe under water. He came up coughing, sputtering, and gasping for breath. In the distance he saw a beaver making repairs to the beaver dam. “Not even gonna try that,” he said with a sigh.
After he’d sat in the sun to dry, Buddy watched as a bunny hoped past him. I could do that, he thought. Soon he stood up on his two hind feet and jumped as hard as he could, but he didn’t go as far, and he didn’t go as fast. 
Still, it didn’t stop Buddy. Like the bunny, he began to hop, hop, hop along the trail. That’s when another rabbit stopped and asked him, “What are you doing?”
“I’m hopping, just like a rabbit.” 
At first the bunny didn’t do anything. Then he began laughing. He laughed and he laughed so hard, it made him fall on the ground where he held his stomach and rolled around in the grass. When he finally caught his bunny breath, the rabbit said, “But you’re a squirrel...not a rabbit.”
Buddy spent the rest of the afternoon, and most of the next day, watching other animals in the forest. Each time he saw a new one, he did his best to do what it did. No matter how hard he tried, nothing seemed to work. Finally he slumped down under a bush and stared at the ground.
“What’s the matter, Buddy?” a familiar voice asked.
Without even looking up Buddy said, “Grandpa?”
“Sure is. I think you’re just about the saddest squirrel I’ve ever seen.”
Buddy slowly looked up. A small tear ran down his face. “I’ve tried to be like everybody else I’ve seen in the forest, but it’s no use. I’m only a useless squirrel” He looked down again, let out a deep breath, and sniffed.
“Useless squirrel?” his grandfather demanded in a loud voice. “Are you kidding?”
“Yeah, I can’t do anything special.”
His grandfather moved closer. “You see, we all have a place in this world. The beaver is best at building things. Birds can fly in the sky. And fish can breathe under water. But you...you were made for a special purpose.”
Buddy looked up again as he remembered his mother telling him that he had a purpose. “What’s mine?” he asked.
“Why, you were made for planting.”
Buddy swelled up with pride. “I was?”
“Each of us has a job to do that only we are the best at doing.” Grandfather squirrel looked around the forest. He waved his paw from one side, clear across to the other.  “You see all of those mighty oak and nut trees?”
Buddy looked and nodded.
“How do you s’pose they got there?”
Buddy shook his head.
With a twinkle and a smile, his grandfather thumped his puffed out his chest and said, “I planted them.”
Buddy’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped open. “You did? But how?”
“They each start from a single, little nut or acorn. And you know how much we love to eat those.”
Buddy’s face brightened and a sparkle came into his eyes. He jumped up, grabbed an acorn between his teeth, and turned toward the forest.
“Where are you going?” his grandfather asked.
With the acorn in his mouth, and in a muffled voice he called back to his grandfather, “Can’t talk now, Grandpa. I got trees to plant.”

The End

More information about my middle grade adventures and mysteries. https://middlegradeadventureandmystery.blogspot.com 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

(2) Grandpa’s Old Oak Tree - A FREE Short Story for Kids Who Are Stuck at Home

A death in the family can be particularly difficult for young minds to understand. This story might help to explain what has happened.


Grandpa’s Old Oak Tree

The Brightman family decided to make a special trip to visit the grandparents on their farm. Jimmy knew something was different when most of the way there, no one said very much. After they arrived, the children were able to spend time with their grandfather. But even they noticed how he tired easily, needed lots of naps, and wasn’t as much fun as he used to be.
Then one day, their grandfather took them out to sit under his favorite oak tree. To the children, it looked like his tree might reach all the way to the sky. It hurt the back of Jimmy’s neck, just looking up at it. Even if he and Sarah held hands and tried to reach around the massive trunk, their arms still wouldn’t be long enough.
Grandpa showed them where their own parents had carved their initials up in the tree. Above those were the grandparents’ initials. Then even higher up, Jimmy saw something. “Hey, who carved that heart?”
His grandpa chuckled. “Those were your great grandparents. The ones before your grandmother and me.”
Sarah kept looking up for a moment. “Wow, they sure must have been good climbers.”
Her grandfather laughed. “No, sweetie, when they carved their initials in that big heart, they were standing on the ground.”
 She wrinkled up her nose. “How tall were they?”
 “The tree grew up since then,” her brother answered.
 “That’s right,” their grandfather said. Life goes on and this old tree kept growing right along with it.” They sat quietly for the next few minutes. Then he continued. “We’ve had some wonderful picnics under this old tree. I used to climb its mighty branches when I was only a boy. Sometimes the family sat out here and sang until way past dark. Why, I think about all the creatures it’s taken care of.”
“Like what?” Jimmy asked.
“Squirrels built their nests high up in her branches, they gathered acorns for the winter when they fell in the fall, and all kinds of birds have raised their young in this tree. Your own father climbed it when he was about your age, Jimmy. And it’s given us a nice place in the shade so we could get out of the sun on many a hot day.”
Everyone sat quietly again for a few minutes. Then Sarah asked, “Have you always been a farmer?”
He nodded. “I have, but did you know I was also a builder?”
Jimmy and his sister shook their heads together.
“It’s true.” He turned and pointed. “I designed and built our house over there.”
“You did?” Jimmy exclaimed.
“Sure did.” He turned back to the children. “And one thing a builder knows about is wood. Now, you take this tree here. It’s getting pretty old. Soon it’ll need to be cut down, if the wind or lightning don’t do the job first.” He pointed to a place where two parts of the tree had been split. “Like up there where lightning hit it.” He took a deep breath and then looked at his grandchildren again. “When an oak tree doesn’t produce acorns anymore, or the branches aren’t strong, it could be dangerous if I left it for your grandmother to take care of after I’m...”
Jimmy was beginning to understand, and it gave him a big lump right in the middle of his throat. His sister had gone off to pick flowers nearby. He moved closer to his grandfather. “How come things have to..?”
“Die?”
Jimmy nodded.
“Well, it’s just the way life is. Sometimes we build things to remind us of people who aren’t with us anymore. It’s a way to help remember them. When one thing dies, something else takes its place.”
“But how?”
Grandfather pointed out toward his fields. “In the spring, my soy beans grow green and strong. Before they can be harvested, and used for food, they have to die first and dry up. But a farmer can take some of those same dry beans, plant them in the ground, and a new crop will grow up to take their place. Or when a car gets old and rusted, it’s taken to the junk yard, shredded, and a new car can be built from what’s left.”
Jimmy thought for a moment. “I think I understand.”
“It’s the same for families. When the older ones are gone, new ones, like you and your sister, take their places. One day I took my father’s place.”
Jimmy squinted and asked, “You had a father?”
The old man chuckled. “He was your great grandfather. Remember the heart?”
Jimmy looked up there again. “Now I get it.”
Just then Sarah came back with a bouquet of flowers. “What about the heart?”
He smiled. “There were your great grandparents, then your grandmother and me. Next came your parents, and now we have the two of you.”  He took a heavy breath. “One day I’ll be gone.” He rubbed his knees. “Your grandpa’s getting a little worn out. Soon it will be time for me to go away.”
Sarah handed the flowers to her grandfather and then hugged around his neck. “But I don’t want you to go away, Boompa.”
Not long after their visit, the family traveled to the farm again for their grandfather’s funeral. Everyone cried and Jimmy felt very sad.
After they’d been back home for a few weeks, something exciting happened. When Jimmy and Sarah played on the slide in their swing set, a large truck roared to a stop in front of their house. When it stopped, the brakes squeaked. On the back of the truck, Jimmy noticed stacks of boards piled high. As the men unloaded the boards, the children’s father came home early from work.
They ran to him. “What’s happening, Dad?” Sarah asked.
He smiled. “It’s a big surprise.”
“You knew about this?” Jimmy asked.
Their father nodded. “I helped plan it all. This is something your grandfather wanted very much to do for you.”
Jimmy looked down. “But he’s gone now.”
“I mean he wanted it for you and Sarah.”
“Well what is it?” she asked.
He explained to them how their grandfather had arranged for his favorite tree to be cut down, made into boards, and shipped to them. He even drew up the plans for a great tree house.”
“Did you know he was a builder?” Sarah asked.
Her father smiled. “I sure did.”
After a lot of cutting with loud saws, and pounding of hammers, their tree house rested proudly in the branches of their tree. Jimmy and Sarah’s father brought out a note that their grandfather had given him to read at this moment.
“Today you have a new tree house, built from the wood of my favorite oak tree. Each time you enjoy playing in it, I hope it will help you to think of me. Now the memory of your grandfather, and that great, old tree, can live on as something new.”
As the children’s mother stood with them, their father reached down and picked up one more board. He took a power screwdriver and headed up the ladder where he set the board in place and fastened it to the front of that beautiful tree house. When he’d finished, the children could clearly see that on the new board were the same carved heart, and initials of their great grandparents. And the old piece of wood sparkled with a shiny, new finish.
Later the children sat up inside their beautiful tree house. Jimmy was the first to speak.
“Mom said Grandpa went to a better place.”
Sarah frowned. “A better place?”
Her brother nodded. “Uh huh.”
“Where?”
“I’m not exactly sure, but I remember he told me that one day we’d see him again up there.”
Sarah sniffed back her tears and looked up. “I sure miss Boompa.”
“Me, too,” Jimmy told her.
After they climbed down the ladder, Jimmy looked up at the top of the tree house where those initials had been carved into the rugged bark from the old tree. A small tear formed, rolled to the corner of his eye and down his cheek, even as a smile came to his face.
Winter seemed especially cold to Jimmy that year. He often found himself sitting at his bedroom window, staring out at the tree house, and remembering his grandfather. That made him smile every time.

The End


If you enjoyed this story, come back from time to time and I’ll post others. Until then, you can find several of my adventure and mystery books here https://www.amazon.com/s?k=max+elliot+anderson&ref=nb_sb_noss_1 
Thanks for stopping by,

Max Elliot Anderson

Monday, March 23, 2020

(1) Willy The Wrong Way Rabbit - A FREE Short Story for Kids Who Are Stuck at Home

With your kids cooped up in the house, I have a few FREE short stories that might help them fight boredom. The first one, “Willy The Wrong Way Rabbit,” is available today.


Willy The Wrong Way Rabbit

A young rabbit stood outside his home, looked down at the ground and mumbled, “Willy the wrong way rabbit.” He shook his head and repeated, “Willy the wrong way rabbit.” He took a deep breath. “That’s what they call me, Willy the wrong way rabbit.”
Willy wasn’t worse than other rabbits. His ears may have drooped nearly to the ground, but he had the same color of fur, and his bushy tail looked just as nice as any other rabbit’s in the woods. Still, poor Willy really did have a big problem. No matter what he was supposed to do, Willy always did it the wrong way. For example, most rabbits take off running with a hop, skip, and a jump. But not Willy. He started out with a jump, skip, and then a hop.
His mother had nearly given up trying to teach Willy the right ways. That’s because, two days ago, she asked him to take out the garbage. Instead, Willy brought trash into the house and stacked it neatly in the hallway. “One of these days,” his mother scolded, “something very bad could happen to you if you don’t stop, look, and listen.” In fact, on that very day, she had taken him down to the railroad tracks where a sign with those exact words of warning stood guard at the crossing. But Willy didn’t stop, he didn’t look, and he didn’t listen. He charged right toward the tracks just as a fast-moving passenger train roared through. Lucky for Willy, his mother grabbed his little coat just before that monster streaked only inches in front of his twitching nose. He held his breath and closed his eyes tight.
For nearly a minute after the train had passed, his mother couldn’t speak. But when she did, Willy knew he was in trouble. “Willy the wrong way rabbit,” she said in a trembling voice. “Whatever shall become of you?” And that was the last time she had tried to teach him.
When Willy’s friends teased him about being the wrong way rabbit, they weren’t simply being unkind. Willy always did things the wrong way. Like whenever he ate dinner with his family. If all the other rabbits at the table passed serving bowls from the right to the left, Willy tried to pass them in the opposite direction, which was wrong. If he were told to turn left, he went right. It was no use telling Willy to go up the path because he’d turn and go down. To Willy, left was right, black was white, day was night, up was down, hot was cold, in was out, under was over, and fast was slow.
Willy hopped out into the woods where he could think about his problems. He stayed out there for a long time. Later he wandered down by Webster’s Creek where he spoke quietly. “I’ve always been a happy rabbit. Having fun is just a habit. If there’s a carrot, I will grab it. I can’t help I’m a wrong way rabbit.” After sitting on the bank for a while longer, he heard a familiar voice.
“Hey Willy! Where’ve you been?”
He looked up at his friend Wilbur. 
“We haven’t seen hide nor hair of you?”
Willy blinked. “Huh?”
His friend laughed. “It’s a rabbit joke, Willy.”
Willy rubbed his nose. “I’ve been around. What about you?”
“We hopped past where the watermelons grow.”
“Willy smacked his lips. “Watermelons. What a wonderful taste. Who was guarding them?”
“Old Man Woodman, why?”
Willy’s ears stood up a little straighter. “What was he doing?”
“Whistling.” 
“Why was he whistling?”
Wilbur sat next to his friend. “Whenever he knows we aren’t around, he whistles.”
Willy turned to Wilbur. “Where was his dog, King?” 
“Whining in the bushes at the end of a strong rope.”
Willy shook his head. “Wonder why?”
“Who knows?”
Willy stood up. “Wow, wouldn’t a watermelon be delicious on a hot day like this?”
Wilbur stood next to him. “What are you thinking?”
“Well, Wilbur, why don’t we get all of our friends, hop on over to Woodman’s yard and go through his fence tonight?”
“What if King whines?” Wilbur asked in alarm.
“Who cares? That dog can’t catch all of us. Besides, Old Man Woodman doesn’t hear very well anymore.”
So, after dark that night, Willy, along with other rabbits Wilbur, Wyatt, Weldon, Walt, and Warren headed for the back fence behind Old Man Woodman’s property. A full moon shined its light on their path. Willy had been warned many times, by his mother, “Stay out of gardens. We have plenty of our own food. A rabbit can go into a garden and never come out.”
Mr. Woodman’s fence hadn’t been repaired for many years. Several of the boards had loosened so that, if a rabbit wanted to, he could easily push them to one side and have all the fresh carrots, lettuce, and other vegetables he wanted. And right now, Willy wanted all of them; even though he knew it was wrong. He and his friends pushed their way through the fence. They stopped on the other side, right in front of the straightest garden rows any hungry rabbit has ever seen.
Willy’s tummy made a hungry rumble. He looked closer. “Not a weed anywhere,” he told the others. Then, as if they were in their own, personal produce department at the grocery store, each rabbit began picking and eating nearly everything in sight. Before long, they completely forgot about Old Man Woodman, his dog King, or anything else. And that was a big mistake.
On their very first visit to this garden, Willy and his friends made sure they knew where the dog had been tied and the length of his rope. Willy may have been the first to hear it tonight, he wasn’t really sure. But one thing he was sure of is a low growl cut through the night air, just to his left, or was it his right? No matter which one it was, Willy knew he and his friends were in danger. 
Good thing that hound is still tied up, he thought. Willy slowly opened one eye. What he saw made him squeeze his eyes shut and wait. The next thing he felt was the hot breath from Mr. Woodman’s dog. Willy noticed that Old Man Woodman had tied an extra length into King’s rope. Now he could chase rabbits two times farther than before. Right then Willy knew he was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing, and he hadn’t even made it to the watermelon patch yet.
Willy opened his other eye. That’s when he noticed his friends eating lettuce in the row next to where he hid. He had two choices. Willy could stay hidden, or he could warn his friends and put himself in danger. He thought for only a second or two. Then he stood up, took a big bunny breath, and called out in his loudest voice, “Run for your lives!”
His friends dropped what they were eating and dashed for the fence. The growling hound turned around toward Willy and cut off his path of escape. And that’s when Willy noticed something. In an instant, he dove under King, ran through his four legs, and streaked toward the iron stake at the other end of the rope. Well, King had no choice. He spun around and followed as fast as he could. When he reached the stake, Willy kept right on running around and around and around as King chased only inches behind him, flashing his sharp teeth, until something surprising happened. King came to a sudden stop. That dog had wound his rope around that stake until he could run no more.
Next, Willy did the right thing for only the second time in his life. He didn’t run the wrong way. Instead, he raced straight for the fence, burst through, and tumbled into the grass on the other side where his friends met him. They all cheered and hopped around as they shouted, “Willy, Willy, the right way rabbit!”
From that day on, Willy listened to his mother, and even though he made mistakes from time to time, Willy tried his best to do the right thing so no one could call him Willy the wrong way rabbit ever again.
The End
If you enjoyed this story, come back from time to time and I’ll post others. Until then, you can find several of my adventure and mystery books here https://www.amazon.com/s?k=max+elliot+anderson&ref=nb_sb_noss_1 
Thanks for stopping by,

Max Elliot Anderson